The beneficial effects of sport on the brain

If the effects of sport on the body are numerous and relatively well known (tonicity, potency, retardation of aging, endurance, etc.), those on the brain are not necessarily so obvious. Did you know, for example, that he has morphine-like effects on our brains? Or that it helps fight against depression?

Our brain benefits greatly from sport. To the point that physical activity has protective effects, even therapeutic, vis-à-vis certain mental pathologies.

The beneficial effects of sport on the brain:

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Playing sports puts you in a good mood. The activity of the front of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, decreases. Complicated thoughts, resentments or worries pass in the background. All your nerve resources are used for the functioning of regions further back of the brain, necessary for the perception of different parts of the body, the planning and execution of movements.

A sense of well-being

The production of dopamine increases in the brainstem.

This neurotransmitter plays a vital role in the reward system, which is why moving makes you want to … move more!

An effect that can be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Another benefit: more tryptophan is released into the brain, and this compound is used to make serotonin, which plays an important role in the brain structures that treat our emotions. Many antidepressants work by increasing the amount of serotonin available in the synapses of our brains.

Stress reduction

The level of cortisol associated with stress drops. Excessive amounts of this hormone in the blood would impair our ability to pursue goals as well as recalling memories. In the long run, they also destroy neurons in key areas of memory.

Short-term effects are associated with occasional practice and long-term effects result from regular physical activity

1 More gray matter

Regular sport increases the volume of several brain areas, including the prefrontal cortex. Consequence: in the elderly, the usual thinning of these areas can be reversed

2 Neurogenèse

Animal experiments clearly show that sport causes the release of growth factors and the formation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, an important center of memories.

3 Better connectivity

When one trains physically, the white matter of the brain develops – it is made up of axons, internal connecting cables of the brain.

In addition, studies show that sport increases the formation of new synapses in the hippocampus.

4 Creating new blood vessels

Sport is a very good stimulant for brain irrigation. In many regions new arteries and venules appear.

5 Functional changes

Sport has effects not only on anatomy, but also on brain activity. Brain imaging images taken during psychological tests reveal patterns of different neuronal activity in physically active people compared to inactive subjects.

Observations consistent with the fact that regular sports practice improves attention performance as well as executive functions, including impulsivity control and planning ability

(below: results from a meta-analysis of 29 isolated studies, horizontal bars represent the dispersion of the results).

Some people say they are dependent on physical activity. One might think, indeed, that the composition of endorphins, similar to that of opiates, gives rise to this addictive effect.

However, experts say that endorphins are very quickly destroyed by the enzymes of the body, this dependence would be only psychological. Those who have a regular physical activity would be hard to do without the feeling of well-being and fullness they feel during and after the effort.

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